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Trekking through a design project

April 13, 2017 by

Recently I popped over to Australia’s island state Tasmania to take on the walk of all walks; The Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St-Clair. The weather was wild and the track was challenging. With six days of walking and none of the usual distractions of routines and technology, my mind often wandered to life and work. I couldn’t help but make comparisons and figure out what I was learning from the experience and how I could apply the learnings into my life and for the purpose of this article – studio life.

Plan well
This may seem obvious but it is also the most important. When you’re hiking for six days in a volatile climate you need to prepare for all scenarios but also keep your gear to a minimum.

Learning: Ask yourself what tools you need to give you the best chance of success. Try and forecast what could go wrong and be ready for it so you can mitigate any risks before they even occur.

The Track

Set expectations
As the trip approached the weather forecast was grim, I grappled with anxiety and doubt to the point where I almost pulled the plug on the whole experience. My trekking companion sent around this article about enjoying The Overland Track even in the worst conditions. It really helped to give some perspective; We knew the first three days were going to be horrendous, so we embraced it, quit our whining and got on with it. Because we knew it was going to be bad, there were no surprises (Okay we were pretty surprised when we spent the first day battling through a snowstorm in summer).

Learning: If something is going to be challenging, own it, then nail it.

The first bit is the steepest
In this case all metaphorically, physically and mentally all apply. In the first few hours of the track we climbed from the start at elevation 869m to Marion’s lookout at elevation 1,250m – it was pretty damn steep. Here it was pretty clear what the next six days were going to be like and my mind started racing and comparing the actual experience to what I had been envisioning during the lead up to the walk. My body was figuring out it’s limits with the new environment and the restraints of the backpack.

Learning: Once you’ve kicked off a project, even though you’ve done all that planning, things may not be as they seem. Luckily you did do all of that planning because you can readjust and keep on slogging away. But be careful not to expel all your energy here though.

Mt Pelion East Side

Tread carefully when conditions are rough
Even when you’re in a rush, or trying to get through something hard, you still need to be careful. When my group were trying to get through that crazy snowstorm we tried to go fast, I found that by doing this with a 18kg backpack on, I strained my knees and left myself in pain and limping for the remaining 5 days, not cool.

Learning: Try to slow down, even when under tremendous pressure, or else you could find yourself debilitated for the remainder of a project.

Trail hut

Try stuff out and see what works
Learning and adjusting on the go was a big theme of the trek; when it came to packing it was a case of packing, unpack, repack again. It was something I’d done over 10 times before even leaving home, but as every time I tried something different it would either be a massive improvement, or a total failure. But from the initial lengthy experimentation, it became more of a process that ran smoother, smarter and faster every time.

Learning: There’s no such thing as perfection, but you can figure out what works for you and your team by experimenting with different ways of working.

Take each day at a time
Walking 65km in six days while hauling a 18kg backpack with you is a pretty overwhelming thought. I found that if I broke down what was required to walk each day and kept that in the front of my mind, while keeping that end goal at the back of my mind.

Learning: Set milestones – what do you need to achieve right now to make sure you’re on track to deliver?

Snow storm

Go the extra – smell the roses, if you can
Some of the best bits of the track were when we abandoned our backpacks on the side of the path and took little detours. We climbed mountains, saw heaps of waterfalls and found some of the best views I’ve ever seen. But sometimes we were time conscious or exhausted so it was necessary just to get to the hut for the night.

Learning: If you can do something beyond the brief that will deliver a much more enriching product go for it, but know when you’ve just got to get a task done, get to the finish.

The most beautiful things are hard work
En route to the trailhead the park ranger reminded the group that amazing landscapes like the ones we were about to witness could only ever be forged by the wild weather we were about to endure.

Learning: It is no accident when things are beautiful – it is usually the results of endurance

Selfie by Phil

Okay, so maybe some of my comparisons are drawing a long bow, but I believe it’s important that when we are outside of our regular lives taking in new experiences, it is important to come back to real life feeling more aware and implement changes with a refreshed perspective.